No one is going to argue who the top three quarterbacks are entering the season, are they? It seems pretty clear-cut that the honor belongs to Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. While you may switch around the order depending on your preference among them, there really is little debate.
However, who comes next is a little bit more wide open, though it probably comes down to one of two options: Cam Newton or Matthew Stafford.
Which one should it be? Let’s take a look:
After playing in just 13 games over his first two NFL seasons, there were a lot of questions as to whether Stafford could stay on the field all year long. He answered those questions and then some in 2011 by not only playing in 16 games, but posting unbelievable numbers.
Stafford completed 63.5 percent of his passes (421 for 663) for 5,038 yards, 41 TDs and 16 interceptions. The yards placed him third in the league (behind Brees and Brady) as did the touchdowns (behind Brees and Rodgers).
In other words, there no longer is a question of just how high the numbers can go if he stays healthy. The question is, can he perform like an elite quarterback in back-to-back seasons?
For me, the answer is an easy yes. He has the best wide receiver in Calvin Johnson, with whom he has already formed one of, if not the most dynamic QB-WR pairing in the NFL. Throw in an emerging Titus Young and Brandon Pettigrew and the Lions offense, which is going to be pass-happy, could put up video game-like numbers.
Granted, you would like to see a consistent running game, but those questions will probably just lead to more throws. Will Jahvid Best be cleared to play? Can Kevin Smith stay healthy? Will Mikel Leshoure be healthy after missing all of 2011? It’s one question after another, but that’s hardly enough to deter Stafford and company. They are good enough to post big numbers, even if opposing defenses know they are going to be throwing the football.
Considering the offensive weapons he has, replicating his breakout 2011 is not out of the question by any stretch.
Talk about bursting onto the scene, Newton put up ridiculous numbers in his rookie campaign. While a lot of his value came courtesy of his legs, Newton proved that he was more than capable throwing the ball as well.
He completed 60 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,051 yards, 21 TDs and 17 interceptions. However, the numbers did slide a little bit as the season progressed:
- First 8 games: 2,393 yards for 11 TD and 9 INT
- Last 8 games: 1,658 yards for 10 TD and 8 INT
Yes, he kept the touchdowns and interceptions steady, but that is a significant drop in yardage. Did opposing defenses start to figure out how to slow him down? Maybe, but he also may have just gotten more run-happy.
The latter was not the case, as he had the same 63 rushing attempts in the first half and second half of the season. The thing is, even if he rushes that much again can we really expect him to match 14 rushing touchdowns (he rushed for 706 yards)? With DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert in the mix, it would appear unlikely.
He’s a good passer, but not an elite one. So, if his running numbers decline would he really be under consideration for the fourth QB spot?
Newton is one of the better quarterback options in the league, but this is going to be a rushing offense and his rushing touchdowns will likely regress. Throw in the significant drop in passing yards as the season progressed and there is a lot to be concerned about.
Is Newton a top-five fantasy quarterback entering the season? Yes, but he is a notch below Stafford for me. The combination of Stafford and Johnson is way too dangerous, especially in a pass-first offense with significant weapons around them. If I face the choice, it’s Stafford every time.
How about you? Which quarterback would you chose and why?
Make sure to check out our 2012 fantasy football rankings: